Back row from left: Blacksmith solid nail, Rivierre diamond-head sq.-shanked nail, Tremont wrought-head minimize nail. Front row from left (all from Tremont Nail): rosehead nail, high-quality end nail, clout nail, headless brad.

In the absence of courses (silly pandemic), I noticed it’s been since January that I’ve ordered any nails and that’s bizarre. I take advantage of them in nearly each class I train, so in regular instances I’m putting a nail order about as soon as a month. Yet nails typically get a nasty rap from fashionable woodworkers; I believe that’s as a result of a lot of the naysayers are utilizing the improper nails. Nails have been utilized in furnishings for hundreds of years (Egyptians used them at the very least for tacking on upholstery, and Romans invented the solid 4-sided nail). Sure, I like wooden-on-wooden joinery as a lot as the following lady, however typically a nail is the proper alternative.

In my courses, nails are usually used to bolster glue joints (cabinets housed in dadoes on, as examples, a Dutch instrument chest or a boarded bookcase), and to nail on backboards and backside boards. I like nails for these makes use of as a result of they bend sufficient to accommodate wooden motion, and since they are often pulled out if essential to make repairs.

But not simply any nail.

I like two sorts of nails (nicely, three, actually … however there are solely two I can commonly afford): diamond-head die-solid nails, and minimize nails. (Blacksmith-forged nails are attractive and in my expertise maintain like nothing else, however at a minimal of $1.25 per, they’re out of my worth vary for all however probably the most particular work.)

Die-forged nails look – at a look – like a blacksmith-solid nail with 4 tapered sides, however they’re produced on a machine and have easy faces, and all of the heads look just about the identical. They maintain just like the dickens because of all 4 sides wedging fibers down into the outlet; that’s what makes them onerous to tug out. (A blacksmith-solid nail has tough surfaces, which makes them maintain even higher.) The giant head is noticeable, so if it’s on the facet of a bit, it’s not solely a fastener but in addition a design function. That head isn’t just ornamental, although. It’s what helps to carry a backside or backboard in place (extra on that beneath).

I’m pretty sure that Rivierre, based mostly in France, is the one mass producer of 4-sided tapered nails; they’re obtainable within the United States by each Lie-Nielsen Toolworks and Lee Valley Tools.

The different nails I take advantage of on a regular basis are minimize nails. I believe that Tremont Nail (now owned by Acorn Manufacturing) is the one remaining maker of those as soon as-ubiquitous woodworking fasteners. Cut nails are tapered on two sides, so there may be important wedging energy on two faces. They’re not as robust as a 4-sided nail, however are a heck of quite a bit stronger than spherical, wire nails, which have been round for the reason that finish of the 19th century and have become normal someday within the early 20th century. My home was constructed about 1900, after wire nails turned obtainable; all of the studs and flooring are put in with minimize nails and the moldings are connected with wire nails. The moldings are simple to take away (a great factor, given the quantity of removing for renovation then re-set up I’ve completed); the floorboards and studs are darn close to inconceivable to take away cleanly.

Note: Masonry nails look quite a bit like minimize nails and will be discovered at {hardware} shops. Don’t be tempted. They are normally extra tapered than minimize nails and can break up your work both immediately or throughout seasonal motion. They’re hardened, so that they don’t bend, and that means to bend a bit bit is one good motive to make use of nails in furnishings!

Our nail cupboard is predicated on the one proven within the opening of each episode of Roy Underhill’s “The Woodwright’s Shop,” and is constructed by Christopher Schwarz.

Cut nails have a bewildering array of names and there are dozens of various varieties for the totally different crafts and professions that use them. I largely follow those meant for furnishings making (although I typically want flooring nails). But, boatbuilders use copper nails, and people can look fairly cool on furnishings, so typically it’s value purchasing for woodworking at a chandler. Below are those I preserve readily available.

  • Brads/“fine finish.” Basically only a nail with a small head, corresponding to you would possibly use when the pinnacle must be inconspicuous or punched beneath the floor. Because it’s the shaft and never the pinnacle that holds issues in place, this sort isn’t good for holding backboards or bottoms in place. But they is likely to be used on the edges of a boarded bookcase or Dutch instrument chest if the maker doesn’t just like the look of nails – wherein case it’s finest to “toenail” them (drive them at opposing angles) for additional power.
  • Clouts, Wroughts or Roseheads. These have a outstanding head (which is sweet or unhealthy, relying in your aesthetics), and thus a variety of holding energy. They preserve a cupboard again or chest backside from being pulled off. These are additionally the nails you for need for “clenching” – driving an overlong nail by two (or extra, I suppose) items, then bending the tip and driving it again into the underside board. (That’s a robust joint. There are medieval doorways in England nonetheless in use that used clenched nails to carry battens in place.)
  • Headless Nails. Thin nails with tiny or no head. These are largely used for attaching moldings, or maybe when making use of one thing like a dropped lip to a shelf board, to function a clamp whereas the glue dries (belt and suspenders).
We preserve extra nails (and different {hardware}) in these Equipto cupboards, that are simple to search out on eBay (and typically for excellent costs – $20, however normally round $100-$150).

Sizes of Nails

Not solely can the array of minimize nails be complicated, however they manner their sizes are denoted can also trigger some head scratching – the “pennyweight” or little italic “d” behind the quantity. The origins of the pennyweight system are like a fairy story – there are many totally different variations, and sure none is actual. But it doesn’t matter; perceive the way it works, and also you’re golden. So right here’s how.

When you nail issues collectively, there’s a high board and a backside board. The nail passes by the highest board and into the underside board. It’s the thickness of your high board that’s necessary right here. Let’s say it’s half of in. thick. Convert that fraction into eighths: 4/8. The numerator, 4, is the penny dimension you (in all probability) want: 4d.

 About that (in all probability): In delicate woods corresponding to pine, improve the nail dimension by a penny (if you happen to can; good luck discovering 7d nails, although, so for 3/4-in. (i.e. 6/8-in.) pine, I take advantage of the 6d).

Here’s a helpful cheat sheet for minimize nails generally wanted for furnishings, in pennyweight, size, and thickness of wooden it fastens:

  • 2d – 1 inch – 1/Four inch
  • 3d  – 1-1/Four inch –3/Eight inch
  • 4d – 1 -1/2 inch – half of inch
  • 5d – 1-3/Four inch – 5/Eight inch
  • 6d – 2 inch – 3/Four inch
  • 7d – 2-1/Four inch – 7/Eight inch
  • 8d – 2-half of inch– 1 inch

The sq.-shanked nails are bought in millimeter lengths, so simply select the closest in size to the right minimize nail.

But don’t neglect to make use of your noggin and expertise. Is your wooden species simply break up (oak)? Maybe use a shorter nail. Do you want additional holding energy? Use an extended nail.

Using the Nails

Unlike a spherical wire nail, each sq. nails and minimize nails require pilot holes.

For minimize nails, the “rule” is to begin with a bit that matches the scale of the nail on the tip. I’ve discovered that is profitable just for softwood. So I normally match the thickness of the bit to the large facet of the nail’s shank at just under the halfway level. For sq.-shanked nails, I match the scale of the bit to simply above the halfway level – or use a tapered drill bit, which is able to cut back splitting. Drill by the 2 items of wooden to a depth of about one-half to 2-thirds the size of the nail. (Confession: Sometimes, irrespective of how cautious I’m, the highest board desires to separate, normally with the sq.-shanked nails. If that’s the case, I’ll drill a clearance gap by the highest board, and drill the pilot solely into the underside board. Sure, I lose a bit holding energy, however with a headed, sq. nail there’s nonetheless loads of grip.)

For this 6d high-quality end nail, a 7/64-in. bit is my start line for take a look at holes. Sure, I may mic the nail and get a “perfect” match, nevertheless it’s sooner to simply present the nail to the bit. Odds are good you may need to go up or down a bit dimension (or extra) to pick the one which works in any given wooden.

And irrespective of how a lot expertise you might have or what number of nails you’ve sunk, it’s finest to check your chosen nail in offcuts of the wooden you’re utilizing earlier than you begin pounding nails into your work. And I imply the precise wooden you’re utilizing, not simply the identical species out of your offcut bin. Poplar (proven) nearly all the time splits on the 1/8-in. and 1/4-in. traces, and typically on the three/8-in. line with each of my chosen nail kinds; right here, solely the 1/8-in. break up with the minimize nails, and the 1/8-in. and 1/Four in. with the sq.-shanked nail. So you by no means know what you possibly can (and may’t) get away with.

After the pilot holes are drilled, you’re prepared to begin pounding. But there’s yet one more factor of which to remember. Because a minimize nail is a wedge (wider in a single dimension than the opposite), if you happen to insert it improper, your wooden will nearly definitely break up (and irrespective of how cautious you might be, you’ll in all probability do that at the very least as soon as). The wider facet will get inserted within the route of the grain. On the sq.-shanked nails, the way you insert them isn’t fairly as vital, however I line up a sq. face within the route of the grain, as I’ve discovered the sharp nook is barely extra more likely to trigger a break up.

At left, the orientation is right; at proper, it’s not, and can nearly definitely break up the wooden if pushed in.

Now get the hammer, ideally one with a domed head. If you hit the pinnacle with the hammer’s heart, you possibly can sink the nail all the best way with out touching the wooden round it, which the English name “Frenching.” (I can solely assume the French name it “Englishing.”)

Yes, these “fancy” nails are a bit extra hassle than wire nails – however they’re value it. They maintain higher and look higher (they usually’re extra conventional) than wire nails. These days if I’m utilizing a spherical nail, it’s nearly definitely popping out of a framing nailer. And I’m not utilizing it on furnishings.


Furniture, Nailed

Old-fashioned minimize nails make furnishings that’s robust, fashionable, and a pleasure to construct

Cut nails, a household enterprise

Gary Franklin is a fifth-technology nailer on the Tremont nail manufacturing facility in Mansfield, Mass. His nice-nice-grandfather began working there shortly earlier than the Civil War, and he carries on the custom to at the present time.

Decorative Nailing

Learn how Peter Sandback makes use of aluminum-siding nails to inlay intricate patterns on his furnishings.

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